CBC expected to make deep cuts Thursday in wake of losing Hockey Night in Canada by Christine Dobby
Apr 8, 2014
Source: Calgary Herald
The face of Canada’s national broadcaster sans hockey will begin to come into focus this Thursday.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation plans to hold an all-employee meeting to discuss its financial future and layoffs are expected, with deep cuts in the sports division likely.
The broadcaster will lose its marquee program Hockey Night in Canada later this year when Rogers Communications Inc. takes over responsibility for the broadcast as part of the $5.2-billion 12-year exclusive deal with the National Hockey League it struck last November.
CBC will continue to air the program on Saturday nights and for playoff games for the next four years, but the revenues will disappear. Losing the NHL rights, along with other high-profile sports rights in recent years, leaves a gaping hole in the CBC’s budget, which has already been hit hard by government funding cuts.
CBC President Hubert Lacroix, is set to address a town hall meeting of all CBC and Radio-Canada employees on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. and Heather Conway and Louis Lalande, executive vice-presidents of English- and French-language services, respectively, will join him.
“The focus of that meeting will be about our financial pressures and how we’re going to go forward,” spokesman Chuck Thompson said Monday, adding that the loss of Hockey Night in Canada is one of the pressures facing the broadcaster but that he could not go into further detail.
Sources say Mr. Lacroix is also likely to share a rough number of layoffs and cuts to the sports division. It will take several weeks for specific job losses to become clear as various departments make decisions about what roles to eliminate and union seniority will also play a role. The Canadian Media Guild represents the majority of the corporation’s workers, with about 5,000 permanent, contract and temporary members. A number of other unions represent employees in Quebec.
This would be the third major round of job cuts in five years after the CBC announced plans to lay off up to 800 workers in 2009 and about 650 employees in 2012.
The crown corporation received about $1.15-billion in government funding and pulled in about $331-million in advertising dollars for the year ended March 31, 2013. Specialty services and other sources brought the CBC’s total revenue and funding that year to $1.8-billion (results for the most recent year are not yet available).
After expenses, it reported a net profit of $22.4-million not including non-operating items such as property sales or business divestitures.
It is not clear exactly how much revenue the broadcaster earns from Hockey Night in Canada and last year it earned less than usual due to the hockey lockout.
In 2012, Friends of Canadian Broadcasting estimated that the program represented more than half of the English television network’s ad revenues in the previous fiscal year. In testimony before the country’s broadcast regulator, the lobby group said Hockey Night in Canada and “a few other small sports properties” generated about $130-million in advertising revenue.
Brian Cooper, president of Toronto-based sports marketer S&E Sponsorship Group Inc., says the CBC has struggled for years to compete with the private sector for sports broadcast rights. Live events are seen as increasingly valuable in an age of cord-cutting or cord-shaving and a way for television providers to convince subscribers not to leave.
“Sports is leading all of conventional television and all of cable television as the thing to watch. No one PVRs it,” Mr. Cooper said. ”With the plethora of sport networks in this country now, there’s no need [for the CBC to compete for it], and it really can’t.”
The CBC was once the dominant provider of sports coverage in this country but that has eroded as TSN and Sportsnet have expanded dramatically over the past decade or longer.
A huge blow to the national broadcaster’s sports prowess came in 2005 when it lost the right to broadcast the 2010 and 2012 Olympic games. It hasn’t broadcast Toronto Blue Jays games since 2008, nor the Canadian Football League since 2007. While CBC will broadcast soccer’s World Cup in Brazil this year, Bell Media won the rights to broadcast FIFA games from 2015 to 2022.
“It is really difficult for a company with public [accountability] to compete with the private sector,” Mr. Cooper said. “They can’t afford to be in that game.”
© Calgary Herald